BEIRUT- At least 18 Lebanese citizens have been expelled from Qatar, according to AFP sources, after the Gulf Cooperation Council pledged to act against members of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah movement. “Eighteen Lebanese have been expelled from Qatar, in the wake of the GCC decision,” the source said on condition of anonymity, saying it was not clear if they were Hezbollah members.
On June 10, the GCC, to which Qatar belongs, said it would implement measures affecting the “residency permits and financial and commercial transactions of Hezbollah” in response to the group’s involvement in the conflict in Syria.
The GCC statement urged the Lebanese government to “assume its responsibilities towards the behaviour of Hezbollah and its illegal and inhumane practices in Syria and the region”. The bloc, which backs the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The decision stirred fears among the many Shiite Lebanese who work in the Gulf of being associated with the militant group.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Awwad Assiri, was asked on Thursday if his country would move to expel Lebanese citizens, but said only that the GCC decision “affects those who support Hezbollah”. “Hezbollah has erred against itself, its sect and its country. This decision affects those who have been deceived [by Hezbollah],” he told Lebanon’s Future TV. The Shiite Hezbollah enjoyed a surge of popularity among Sunni Muslims in the Arab world, including in the Gulf, in the wake of its 2006 war with Israel.
But that support has dropped away over its decision to firmly back the Al Assad regime, which is headed by Alawites, whose faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Most of the rest of the Arab world supports the Sunni-led uprising against the regime, and has strongly criticised Hezbollah’s role in the conflict.